by Expatguru - 09/02/2011
"This article lists the documentation required for owning a vehicle in Saudi Arabia"
Unlike other parts of the world, public transport is very limited in Saudi Arabia. Particularly for those expatriates with families, it is almost impossible to survive without a vehicle. The reason is not too far to seek. Women aren't allowed to drive and hence are dependent on their husbands to take them out for shopping. It is uncommon for women in the kingdom to go alone for shopping. This could sometimes be quite a pain, because if your kid is sick or something urgent is required at home, you have to take time off from your work to attend your family. Having a vehicle would come in handy for that rainy day.
A pre-requisite for owning is vehicle is obviously a Saudi driving license. For those who already have an international driving license, you can skip the first level of driving test. But in any case, it is advisable to go through a driving school in the kingdom before the test rather than giving the test directly, because the chances of your failure are quite high if you give the test without undergoing the driving school lessons. Not that you do not know driving, but that's how the system works.
Once you get your license and buy a car, the next step is to get a document called 'Istemara', which literally means vehicle registration. You would be given two cards - one which proves that you have registered your vehicle and the other to prove that you are the owner of the vehicle. You must always carry these two cards in your wallet, apart from ' iqama' (residence permit) , vehicle insurance (called 'Ruksa') and driving license. Note that in case of an accident, all these documents need to be submitted to the police immediately.
I would advise expats to never drive your car without a vehicle insurance. Usually, if you take your vehicle insurance from a reputed company, you would be given a letter in Arabic which is addressed to the police. The letter simply states that your vehicle is insured and if you show this to the police, you would not be jailed. Hence, you must atleast carry a photocopy of this letter in your vehicle all the time along with a copy of your iqama.
Renewal of istemara is once every three years. However, a pre-requisite for istemara renewal is that you must get your vehicle certified by what is commonly called as 'Computer test' or MVPI (Acronym for Motor Vehicle Periodic Inspection). Your vehicle would be subjected to a series of tests. In most cases, you would fail the first attempt, so you would have to go back, get the 'fault' corrected within 15 days and give a re-test. Of course, you have to pay every time you give the test! The saving grace is that the re-test is only on those points where you have failed. If your car is not a new one, it makes sense to first go through the test and attend only those points where you have failed before going in for the re-test. Experience expats usually follow this route to save on time and money!
Finally, do keep a full set of photocopies of all the above documents filed separately at home. You might always require them for submitting to the police, in case your vehicle is stolen.